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Sarri’s concerns rest on defensive frailties, not with misfiring strikers

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Chelsea head coach not fussed by the lack of goals and believes they’ll come good

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Oliver Giroud went an entire World Cup without scoring a goal, yet France won the trophy. It was part of a 1000-minute scoring drought across all competitions for club and country, before he finally found the back of the net against the Netherlands in September. Fittingly, he hasn’t scored again since. In fact, he’s now 10 appearances into his second (half-)season at Chelsea and his goal column remains yawningly empty.

Is his manager bothered? No, he is not.

“One month ago, we were concerned about the fact the midfielders didn’t score. And now in the last three matches, Barkley scored two goals and Loftus three goals so I think that if we are able to continue to play this football maybe in a month the strikers will be able to score.

“You know the characteristics of Giroud: Giroud usually is not used to scoring a lot of goals in a season but he’s always very, very useful for the team, for his team-mates. So Giroud is not a problem for us. And Morata in the last five matches, scored two goals. I think they will be able to do better but the most important thing is that the team will continue to play this football.”

(Ed. note: Sarri’s actually fairly wrong on Giroud’s goal-scoring habits. While it’s true that Giroud contributes in many different ways, his nose for goal has seen him average nearly 1-in-2 for his career — 200 goals in 500 appearances, roughly — and was the same solid 1-in-2.5 in his 5.5 years at Arsenal — 105 in 253 — and that despite only starting about two-thirds of those games. Giroud has reached double-figures in scoring in every season since 2007-08, breaking the 20-goal barrier four times.)

Giroud’s misfires would be more concerning if Chelsea’s overall goal output wasn’t commensurate with our position in the table — although now that Hazard’s dealing with an injury, others will have to step up. Entering the weekend, Chelsea’s 20 goals were third-most, better than Liverpool’s much-vaunted front three (16) and only slightly behind Arsenal (22). Manchester City are romping away in that category with 26 through nine games. (Liverpool put 4 past Cardiff on Saturday to catch up with us, having now played one match more.)

The goals that keep Sarri awake at night are the ones going in at the other end, behind Kepa Arrizabalaga and the often at sea midfield and defense. “Defense wins championships”, as the old cliche goes, and apparently Sarri is a firm believer in that despite his even firmer belief in fun, proactive, attacking football.

“Usually the winner is the team who concedes less goals. In Italy - I don’t know here - but I think the same. We have to improve in the defensive phase. We could have done better in the last 20 minutes (against BATE) because we needed only to move the ball and to take the positions. We conceded spaces to the opponents so at the end we conceded a very stupid goal and I didn’t like it.

”It’s very dangerous if you make the same mistakes against very high level opponents, you’re in trouble, like against Liverpool, against Manchester United so we need to control the match better.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Sky

That’s exactly the same song Sarri was singing after the BATE match, while everyone else was reveling in Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s breakthrough three-goal performance. He wants more defensive solidity from his midfielders. And fewer defensive mistakes.

As patient as he may be with his infertile goal scorers, he’s just as impatient with his team’s goal-conceding fecundity.